Chihuahuas In Charge

September 15, 2016

El Paso took command of the Pacific Coast League Championship Series by winning Game Two with ease last night, 10-4.

The Chihuahuas now hold a 2-0 lead over Oklahoma City in the best-of-five series. The teams are off for travel today, and then resume the series in Oklahoma City on Friday night.

It was a full-scale Chihuahua attack last night. El Paso’s top four in the lineup – the core of Manuel Margot, Carlos Asuaje, Hunter Renfroe, and Austin Hedges – each had multiple hits. Hedges even had multiple homers, blasting two solo shots, and Asuaje also went deep. Margot, the regular season PCL triples leader, had a pair of three-base hits.

The game was tied 2-2 when El Paso scored four runs in the bottom of the fifth, and then backed it up with three more runs in the sixth to make it 9-2. In total, El Paso had 14 hits.

Somehow the Chihuahuas won while making five errors. I wonder when the last time was that a team made five errors in one game of the PCL Championship Series (let alone win that game).

The newspaper story from the El Paso Times includes the line “and that’s when the Chihuahuas bombed this puppy open.”

In the Mariners organizations, Double-A Jackson resumes the Southern League Championship Series with Game Three tonight at Mississippi. Jackson leads the best-of-five series, 2-0.

Low-A Clinton was trailing Great Lakes, 5-3, before scoring eight runs in the bottom of the fourth inning in the opening game of the Midwest League Championship Series. They didn’t stop there, either, eventually winning Game One by a score of 16-6. Leadoff man Chris Mariscal reached base five times with three hits and two walks, scoring three runs and driving in three. Shortstop Rayder Ascanio hit a single, double, and triple while driving in four runs.

The Mariners traded Rainiers pitcher Joe Wieland to the Atlanta Braves for a player to be named later.

Wieland went 14-6 with a 5.43 ERA for Tacoma, becoming the team’s first 14-game winner since Denny Stark went 14-2 in 2001.

This trade was interesting to me. The Braves Triple-A club Gwinnett is still in the International League playoffs, so he could help them if allowed by IL rules. The Braves major league team has had some starting rotation injuries and needs a little help getting to the finish line, so maybe he is going (or will go) up.

On top of all of that, Wieland is a free agent at the end of the season. We weren’t going to get him back in Tacoma next year unless the Mariners made him a strong offer for 2017 – which is something that could still happen.

Links:

  • The Mariners are making things interesting, winning their eighth in a row last night at Anaheim, 2-1. The M’s passed a third team in the wild card chase (the Yankees), and need to move past two more to be in a qualifying spot. They are 1.5 games out of the second wild card position. The standings are at the bottom of Ryan Divish’s game story.
  • Bob Dutton’s Mariners Notebook starts with a glimpse of the team’s 2017 schedule.
  • Looks like ESPN is now posting a daily Wild Card Watch, so we might as well link to it.
  • In the PCL, the much-discussed move of the Colorado Springs franchise to San Antonio appears to have been pushed back at least a year, to 2020 (and counting).

 

 

 


Chihuahuas, Generals Hold Leads

September 14, 2016

Game One of the PCL Championship Series went to El Paso, in a 7-5 thriller over visiting Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma City took a 5-0 lead in the second inning against El Paso starter Walker Lockett, but they did not tack on any additional runs… and El Paso began its comeback.

Carlos Asuaje hit a three-run double in the third inning, and it was 5-4. It stayed 5-4 for a long time, but the Chihuahuas rallied for three unearned runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to take the 7-5 lead. An error by shortstop Chris Taylor opened the door, and Diego Goris had a key hit.

El Paso’s bullpen was a strength in the semifinals win over Tacoma, and yesterday was more of the same: 3.2 shutout, no-hit innings.

Here is the game story from the El Paso Times.

Game Two is tonight at 5:35 (Pacific), with Oklahoma City starting Chase De Jong against El Paso’s Frank Garces. Follow along live here.

In the Mariners minor leagues, Double-A Jackson is one win away from a Southern League Championship.

The Generals beat the Mississippi Braves last night, 2-0, to take control of the best-pf-five series. Jackson leads the series, 2-0, but has to go on the road for the remainder.

Starting pitcher Brett Ash tossed seven shutout innings to earn the win. He gave up five hits, no walks, and struck out four. Third baseman Adam Law homered in the fifth inning to snap a scoreless tie.

The news wasn’t as good on in the short-season Northwest League, where the Everett affiliate lost the league championship series to Eugene. Game Three of the best-of-three series went to the Emeralds, 2-1. Everett actually out-hit them, 9-6, but left eight on base and managed just the one run.

Low-A Clinton was off, as they await the start of the Midwest League Championship Series against Great Lakes (Dodgers).

Links:


PCL Championship Series Begins Tonight

September 13, 2016

Oklahoma City and El Paso open the 2016 Pacific Coast League Championship Series tonight at Southwest University Park in downtown El Paso. First pitch is set for 5:35 (Pacific).

If you want to follow along live, the usual PCL scoreboard page will get you everything you need: updated scores, a gameday screen, links to radio broadcasts, etc. It’s all right here.

Former Rainiers reliever Logan Bawcom gets the start for Oklahoma City. He had an amazing season (a 1.92 ERA in 89 innings pitched), and won his prior playoff start against Nashville.

El Paso will start Walker Lockett, who dealt against Tacoma in Game Two of the conference finals. His outstanding start turned the tide in that series.

Here’s a series preview from the El Paso Times, and a column from Bill Knight which tells us El Paso hasn’t had a championship team since 1994.

The Daily Oklahoman has a breakdown of the series, with “players to watch.”

Several Mariners affiliates are still playing in the postseason, and one was eliminated last night.

Double-A Jackson won Game One of the Southern League Championship Series, beating Mississippi, 6-4. Tyler O’Neill drove in two runs, and Andrew Moore pitched six innings allowing two earned runs. Jackson sends Brett Ash to the mound tonight against Braves top prospect Sean Newcomb.

Advanced-A Bakersfield played the final game in franchise history, a 6-3 loss to Visalia. The Bakersfield franchise has been contracted, and the Mariners are hooking up with Modesto next season. Here’s the game story, a column from the local paper, and a massively long but well-done story on the final days of a 75-year-old franchise.

Low-A Clinton advanced to the Midwest League Championship Series by beating Cedar Rapids in 11 innings last night, 1-0. Ricky Eusebio had the game-winning RBI single, and the team had another terrific start from Nick Neidert (7 IP, 3 hits, no runs). They will play either Great Lakes (Dodgers) or West Michigan (Tigers).

Short-Season Everett plays Eugene tonight for the Northwest League championship. The Aqua Sox won last night to tie the series and force a decisive final game.

Links:

  • The Mariners won their sixth in a row and continued to gain in the Wild Card standings. They have passed two teams and need to move past three more.
  • Bob Dutton’s Mariners Notebook leads off with an item on Dan Vogelbach, who is expected to get the start at first base tonight.
  • Prospect analyst John Sickels has a look at Vogelbach.

The Rainiers aren’t in it, but we’re still going to post the PCL Championship Series results here every day.


A Sad Ending

September 12, 2016

The Rainiers 2016 season came to an end on Saturday night, a week before it was expected.

Tacoma lost a tense 5-4 game to El Paso, and the Chihuahuas won the best-of-five Pacific Conference Finals, three games to one.

El Paso’s Hunter Renfroe – the league MVP – was 0-for-11 with seven strikeouts during the first three games of the series. But in Game Four, he singled and scored in the second inning, doubled and scored in the fourth inning, and lifted the go-ahead two-run homer in the top of the eighth which turned out to win the game.

It seemed like Tacoma was the favorite in the series, and confidence was at a high after the Rainiers Game One win. But El Paso won three straight games, getting some great pitching, and even won the final two games at Cheney Stadium where the Rainiers went 46-26 in the regular season.

We can do nothing except credit the Chihuahuas for playing a good series, and wish them the best in the PCL Championship Series which starts on Tuesday in El Paso.

It took an extra game, but Oklahoma City did the same thing El Paso just did.

Trailing two games to one, Oklahoma City won two straight road games at Nashville to win the American Conference Finals.

Game Five on Sunday evening was a dramatic back-and-forth game which Oklahoma City won, 10-9. O’Koyea Dickson hit a go-ahead three-run homer in the top of the eighth inning to give OKC the 10-9 lead. Nashville loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the ninth, but Dodgers reliever Jacob Rhame escaped the jam by getting two pop-ups.

I guess I’m supposed to pick a winner here, but I went 0-for-2 on my opening round picks. Let’s go with Chihuahuas in four games.

There was much disappointment and sadness in the Tacoma locker room after Saturday’s loss, but three players received good news.

The Mariners called up pitcher Cody Martin, infielder Mike Freeman, and first baseman Dan Vogelbach.

Martin and Freeman have gone back-and-forth between Tacoma and Seattle this year, but this is the first call-up for Vogelbach. With Adam Lind suffering a minor injury yesterday, Vogelbach may find himself getting more at-bats than originally expected.

We wish them all the best, and hope they play well and the M’s keep winning games.

Links:

We’ll be back with brief posts all week following the PCL Championship Series and Double-A Jackson’s bid for a Southern League title. Check back on Tuesday.


Rainiers Face Must-Win Situation

September 10, 2016

Today is the last day of the 2016 Rainiers season.

Today is not the last day of the 2016 Rainiers season.

Which is it going to be?

The El Paso Chihuahuas put the pressure on Tacoma, shutting out the Rainiers 7-0 on Friday night to take a two-games-to-one lead in the best-of-five Pacific Conference Finals.

The only way the Rainiers can reach the PCL Championship Series now is to beat El Paso two times in a row, starting tonight.

Tacoma’s offense has been shut down the last two games, scoring a total of one run. Each of the Rainiers last two starting pitchers has allowed four runs in five innings. Neither of the last two games was particularly close.

Manager Pat Listach had a pretty good quote on the situation in the Rainiers game story (first link down below):

“Everybody knows that if we lose, we go home,” Rainiers manager Pat Listach said. “And I don’t think anybody in this clubhouse is ready to go home.

“If they need a motivational speech, it’s a little late. If they need some pampering or a pat on the back, it’s a little late. We’ve won 81 games this year, so we know how to do it. We’ve done it over the course of 144-some games. We can do it. It’s as simple as that.”

That pretty much says it all. Gotta win tonight.

TODAY’S GAME

Today: Tacoma (81-62-1) at El Paso (73-70), 7:05

Series: Best-of-five, El Paso leads 2-1.

Opponent Affiliation: San Diego Padres.

Starting Pitchers: RHP Dinelson Lamet (0-2, 4.22) at RHP Joe Wieland (14-6, 5.43)

Wieland tied for the PCL lead in wins, and was Tacoma’s first 14-game winner since Denny Stark in 2001.

Lamet – whose name literally translates to “the Met” but he signed with the Padres – began the season with Class-A Lake Elsinore and went 7-1, 2.25 in 12 starts. He got promoted to Double-A San Antonio, where he was 5-7, 3.87 in 14 starts. He made two regular season starts for El Paso.

Broadcast: The pregame show starts at 6:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM. The broadcast also streams online via the TuneIn app – just click here.

Scoreboard: Follow the PCL playoff games in real-time with links to Gameday screens right here.

Links:

Will we play Game Five on Sunday? If so, first pitch is at 1:35.


Rainiers Come Home With Series Tied

September 8, 2016

We have a playoff series.

El Paso bounced back from Wednesday’s 12-inning loss to handle the Rainiers relatively easily on Thursday, 7-1.

Credit starting pitcher Walker Lockett and infielder Diego Goris. Lockett carried a shutout into the seventh inning, and Goris had a pair of two-out RBI doubles to give El Paso an early 3-0 lead. The Chihuahuas kept tacking on runs, and won without being threatened.

The best-of-five series is now tied, 1-1.

As much as the Rainiers would have liked to sweep the road games after winning the opener, a 1-1 split on the road isn’t bad at all. Tacoma has home field for the rest of the series, and Tacoma went 46-26 at Cheney Stadium this year.

After the game, manager Pat Listach said the split of the first two games is fine with him. El Paso has to win two-of-three at Tacoma, and that’s been hard for teams to do this season.

Listach used an interesting tactic on Thursday: with Tacoma down 4-0 in the bottom of the sixth, and starter Cody Martin done for the day (104 pitches), he used starter Zach Lee (bumped from the playoff rotation by Wade LeBlanc) as a long man to finish the game. This made it so the regular relievers got rested up for the remainder of the series, in the wake of the 12-inning opener on Wednesday. Listach decided to play the long game, getting his pitching staff ready for the home games.

That’s it for this update – we have a very tough travel day Friday, and so does El Paso, of course. Both teams are up before 5 AM and land about 1:30 – which means getting to Tacoma around 3:00 or 3:30. Friday’s game might come down to which clubhouse has stronger coffee. Slip ’em some decaf, Fergus.

TODAY’S GAME

Today: Tacoma (81-62-1) at El Paso (73-70), 7:05

Series: Best-of-five, tied 1-1.

Opponent Affiliation: San Diego Padres.

Starting Pitchers: RHP Bryan Rodriguez (4-8, 5.11) at LHP Wade LeBlanc (-)

This will be LeBlanc’s first appearance in a Rainiers uniform. He was designated for assignment by the Mariners on August 25, cleared waivers, and agreed to come to Tacoma and pitch in the playoffs. LeBlanc had a 4.50 ERA in 50 innings for Seattle. He was originally signed by the Padres in 2006, but he probably doesn’t know anyone with the current El Paso group other than radio guy Tim Hagerty.

Broadcast: The pregame show starts at 6:50 on South Sound Sports 850 AM. The broadcast also streams online via the TuneIn app – just click here.

PCL Scoreboard: Follow the PCL playoff games in real-time with links to Gameday screens right here.

Links:

And if anyone knows why Spokane gave up home field advantage to play Game Two against Everett at Safeco Field tonight, please let me know – I am unable to find the reason anywhere. It will be fun for the players, though.


Tacoma Takes Dramatic Playoff Opener

September 8, 2016

In a game filled with tension and drama, the Rainiers won the opening game of the best-of-five Pacific Conference Finals at El Paso on Wednesday night, 6-5. The game took 12 innings and clocked in at a MLB-playoffs approved 4 hours and 4 minutes.

It’s a huge win for the Rainiers, who have secured at least a split of the two road games in El Paso and know they’ll have home field advantage for the final three games. A win tonight at Southwest University Field, and the Rainiers are in control.

The pressure points in the game started early.

The first key moment came in the top of the second inning. The Rainiers had a run in, and the bases were loaded with two outs for Daniel Robertson. Facing El Paso starter Frank Garces, Robertson fell behind in the count 1-2. He started fouling off pitches, eventually got to a full count, and after two more foul balls he lined a two-run single to center, giving Tacoma an early 3-0 lead.

Tacoma starter Jarrett Grube kept El Paso off the scoreboard until the bottom of the fourth, when two walks and a two-out single by Diego Goris gave El Paso a run. In the fifth inning, Manuel Margot lined a solo homer to left-center and we had a 3-2 game after five full frames.

The Rainiers opened it up a bit in the top of the sixth, scoring two runs. Tyler Smith hit a leadoff double, and Rob Brantly doubled him home – each of those two would get four hits in the game. Later, Brantly scored on a James Ramsey single to make it 5-2.

Smith’s night was just getting started, and it was about to become quite a roller coaster ride. In the bottom of the sixth inning, the shortstop dropped a pop-up with two outs which allowed an unearned run to score, making it 5-3.

After some clutch relief pitching by Emilio Pagan, Tacoma took a 5-3 lead into the bottom of the ninth. Andrew Kittredge came in to close it out – and he would end up blowing the save, despite allowing only one hard-hit ball.

Nick Noonan roped Kittredge’s first pitch into the left field corner for a double. Kittredge’s next pitch – to Manuel Margot – resulted in an end-of-the-bat bloop double to shallow right field, right inside the foul line. Noonan scored and it was 5-4.

Margot went 4-for-6, with that flare double and an infield single on a ball he pounded off home plate. After the game, manager Pat Listach said “Some of those hits… Margot is a good player, don’t get me wrong, but he swings a magic wand against us.”

After a strikeout and a walk, El Paso had the tying and winning runners on base with one out and Austin Hedges at the plate. Hedges hit a one-hopper to second baseman Mike Freeman which looked like a game-ending double play. Freeman fielded the ball, flipped it to Smith for one out, and Smith’s relay to first base… sailed over Dan Vogelbach‘s head, allowing Margot to score the tying run.

Extra innings – in Game One of the playoffs.

Then tenth and top of the eleventh went by with little action, but El Paso put two runners on base with one out in the bottom of the eleventh. Making his biggest contribution since joining the team in early August, Al Alburquerque came in from the bullpen and retired Hunter Renfroe and Hedges very quickly to escape the jam.

The Rainiers moved ahead in the top of the twelfth inning against El Paso reliever Jason Jester. With one out, Smith collected his fourth hit of the game – a single to left. Brantly followed with his fourth hit, also a single to left. Smith was at second, when Zach Shank pulled a liner to left field for a base hit. Racing full-tilt around third, Smith slid into home plate ahead of El Paso left fielder Patrick Kivlehan‘s throw to give Tacoma a 6-5 lead.

Kivlehan reached to open the bottom of the twelfth, but Alburquerque retired the next three batter to end the game. The final two outs – both with Kivlehan in scoring position – came on balls hit to Smith, who handled them cleanly to end the game.

Talk about a day for Tyler Smith: after making just ten errors all season, the sure-handed infielder made two costly ones which allowed two runs to score. Then he goes 4-for-6 at the plate, scores the winning run, and makes two pressure-packed plays to end the game.

This was the most tense game the Rainiers have played in years. The end of the game felt like a relief. Tacoma’s Director of Baseball Operations Ashley Schutt, here on the road trip, said she spent the extra innings nervously pacing the concourse of Southwest University Field, walking foul pole to foul pole.

And that was just Game One. We’ll do it again tonight!

TODAY’S GAME

Today: Tacoma (81-62-1) at El Paso (73-70), 5:35 (Pacific)

Series: Best-of-five, Tacoma leads 1-0.

Opponent Affiliation: San Diego Padres.

Starting Pitchers: RHP Cody Martin (10-7, 3.62) at RHP Walker Lockett (1-2, 4.50)

Broadcast: The pregame show starts at 5:20 on South Sound Sports 850 AM. The broadcast also streams online via the TuneIn app – just click here.

PCL Scoreboard: Follow the PCL playoff games in real-time with links to Gameday screens right here.

Links:

Will Game Two be as nerve-racking as the opener?